Summary: Jesus requires that we give generously to those in need. We must follow the Spirit’s leading so we know what to give. It’s not always money. We will receive a reward from someone and someone will receive glory for our giving. The question is who.
In my last post, I taught on one of the hardest things for a disciple of Jesus to do: love your enemies. In this post, we continue talking about the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s teaching on giving to the needy.
We as disciples of Jesus need to pay close attention to the needy. This includes the poor, the disenfranchised in society, and those who have needs they don’t even know they have. I speak of people who need Jesus, are in spiritual need, and they don’t realize it.
We represent Jesus to them. As much as we can offer, we need to be generous and give what we have. This doesn’t have to be money. It’s the first we think of, but it may not be what people need. The good Samaritan gave money, yes, but he first gave physical aid.
It’s easy to throw money at something. It’s like throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks. We must understand the needs of those around us. Don’t take the easy way out. Listen to the needs people have. Meet them where they are. That’s what this teaching is all about. We are talking about righteousness, reward, and glory by giving to the needy (Matthew 6:1-4). Let’s get started.
Secret, Humble Righteousness
It’s funny that we focus on giving to the needy when Jesus’s teaching begins with how we practice righteousness. We know Jesus has imparted His righteousness on us, then we have no righteousness of our own. But we like for people to think we are righteous.
Perhaps that’s why we try to be righteous in front of others. We want credit for the righteousness we show. Jesus reveals our motives here. We will show righteousness to others. But it doesn’t have to be in a showy way.
I think that’s why we came up with random acts of kindness. The goal became how to secretly bless other people without them finding out it was us. I don’t think Jesus is saying people can’t find out it was us that generously gave to someone in need. I think He addresses our motives in giving.
He says to not practice our righteousness before others with the purpose of being seen by them. The moment they see what we have done in kindness, they praise us. They highlight us, put us on center stage, and shine the limelight in our eyes.
It strokes our ego. Our pride swells up. And it raises its ugly head. We look at ourselves as righteous. We think it was our idea to help this person or that person. And we live like the Pharisees, looking to be seen for everything we do. Things meant to be done in secret, to help those in need, to bless them as examples of Jesus, we make them about us.
This is the problem with becoming showy with our kindness, our resources, our moments in the spotlight. Maybe that’s the issue. What should be obedience to glorified Jesus turns into us glorifying ourselves, and seeking glory in front of others. That might be why Jesus tells us to do things in secret, to not let one hand know what the other is doing.
We need a revival of humility in our hearts. Our motives need to be pure, humble, and secret. We may not realize we are doing these kind things for those in need. We need to remember when we were in need of Jesus’s sacrifice for our sin and faults. He must be glorified in us. But that cannot happen if our motives for giving to the needy are wrong.
The Father’s Reward
Jesus shifts from talking about how we demonstrate righteousness to the reward we receive when we show it to others. After all, if we do righteousness deeds before others with the purpose of being seen by them, being noticed for the good we are doing, we’re looking for a reward.
We’re not doing it out of the goodness of our hearts. We are doing it to be glorified by people who see what we do. Our heart craves the limelight. It desires to be noticed. Would we do good things for others if we weren’t noticed? That’s why Jesus says we need to do it in secret.
Getting rewarded for doing good things and helping the needy is not a bad thing. What matters to Jesus, who sees our hearts, is why we do things. Do we help the needy or a gift in the Navy because we want to receive the glory? Or do we give to them because Jesus commands us to do it?
Jesus’s teaching exposes our motives. Doing things for others in secret so we don’t get noticed by others strikes against human nature. It’s natural for us to seek glory. Why is it so hard for us to do something without getting noticed? The people who need something receive it from us. We should quickly let them know it’s a gift from Jesus through us.
This crucifies our fleshly desire to be noticed, to be praised. The disciple of Jesus should not expect a reward. Jesus teaches that we only receive a reward ones. We don’t get praised by others and rewarded by God. It’s one of the other.
The question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I wish to be rewarded by my Father in heaven or by people here on the earth. Are we doing what Jesus commands us to do or what we think will gain the attention of others?
What is your motive in doing what you do? We can seek glory for ourselves or we can bring glory and focus to Jesus. How can we point to Jesus in our giving? He put it in our minds and hearts to give. We are practicing Kingdom character. People either see us or Jesus in our action.
Your Christian Obligation
You may skip over it and not realize how Jesus talks about giving to the needy. In Matthew 6:2, Jesus expects us to give to the needy. For some Christians, we must start with the fact they don’t give. Forget about generosity. They don’t give at all.
Jesus doesn’t say, “If you give to the needy…” He says, “when you give to the needy.” He is not instructing us to give to the needy every once in a while or on a set schedule. He is not beginning something in us that wasn’t there before.
His expectation is that we give to the needy. Why is this a Christian practice? It teaches us to be generous as Jesus was and is generous to us. His generosity did not stop at the Cross. He does not act generously toward us only one time. Generosity flows from His nature. To be generous and give to the needy is to practice the character of God.
Another motive of giving to the needy is to imitate the heart and care of God. The Old Testament law left room for people to give for the needy. Why did God command us to give to the needy? They were on of the four groups in Israel that lived on the fringes of society.
The needy, or the poor, along with widows, orphans, and foreigners, were the groups God provided for in the law to make sure they were taken care of. Jesus sees the needy when we ignore them. Sometimes we don’t know how to help them, so God made them seen by us through His law.
As Jesus’s disciples, we must reach out and help those who need it. If we have it to give, we must give it, and be generous as we give. The cares of Jesus must become our cares. We must see people with His eyes.
We have learned to see people through Jesus’s eyes. It’s natural for us to be rewarded. But we must not give to the needy to receive a reward. Our motive must be to bring glory to Jesus. That’s why Jesus addresses our motives.
If we seek glory for ourselves instead of Jesus, our motives for providing for those who need provision will bring us glory, and people will notice us. But we want them to see Jesus. We live to be His representatives. When we do things in secret and in humility, if people ask us why we do them, it gives us a way to highlight Jesus.
A Hidden Practice
Jesus often pointed to the practices of the Pharisees as things we must not do in His service. The Pharisees sought the praise of others. Their heart was selfish. Their desire was for the praise of people. Jesus says that if we do things the way they did them, we received glory. But it comes from people instead of God.
One principle I live by is to live to receive praise from One. Everything I do is to please Jesus. This is what Jesus is teaching us as His disciples. We live for His glory. What we do must be to please Jesus. That is the only righteous motive we have.
We practice things in secret, hidden from the eyes of other people so Jesus sees us. Jesus gives us our reward, and our hearts remain humble before Him. We don’t do things for others to see us. We do them for Jesus.
Keeping what we do for others hidden and secret keeps our egos and pride from getting in the way of blessing other people by the Spirit’s direction. It keeps our motives pure. If we do things in secret, we hide them from other people, not from God.
Only God can see the hidden things we do. He receives the glory because we do not. Glory and reward seem to be one-time items. The reward comes either from people or from God. And the glory either goes to us or to God.
As Jesus’s disciples, we must be sure to receive our reward from Jesus. Jesus must receive the glory instead of us. This is how our Kingdom character happens. Our goals must be His glory and reward from Him. This is the way of the Kingdom.
We remain Jesus’s humble servants, greater in His Kingdom instead of on this earth. God must notice our obedient action on His behalf. When people notice, they think we deserve credit and praise. Jesus is our example. He did only what He saw His Father doing. We must be like Him.
We cannot resist seeking the praise of others. So, Jesus teaches us if that is the case to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. This knocks us off balance. Whatever we do, our mind cannot concentrate on it if one hand doesn’t know what the other does. This keeps us from thinking about receiving the praise of people. Our motive remains pure.
Listen closely to the needs of others. Watch with God’s eyes. If you are able, give generously to the needs you can fulfill for others. Do it in the Spirit of Jesus. Most of all, give in such a way that only God and rewards you for your obedience to Jesus’s teaching.
I have talked about how to give to the needy according to Jesus’s teaching. Next, I will teach on prayer and fasting.